The Vancouver Canucks are lending their voices to a B.C. government awareness campaign about addiction and substance use.
"It's been absolutely devastating to watch this crisis unfold right in our backyard,” retired Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean said quoted in a January 29 media release. “British Columbians have always been such an important part of my life, and we are losing family members, friends, neighbours and fans in countless preventable tragedies.
“We all need to come together to break the cycle of silence that keeps people isolated and unable to reach out for help.”
It’s estimated that more than 1,400 people in B.C. died of a drug overdose in 2017, up from 985 the year before and 519 in 2014.
The B.C. Coroners Service has noted that a majority of deaths are occurring indoors, where people are often using drugs alone. It’s suggested that one reason why people are using drugs alone, without someone present to respond should they suffer an overdose, is because of stigma.
In today’s media release, B.C. mental health and addictions minister Judy Darcy emphasized that point.
"Stigma around addiction is killing people," she said quoted in the release. "Addiction is often a response to deep pain or trauma, and stigma drives our loved ones to act and live in dark silence. We need to knock down the walls of silence and encourage courageous conversations between friends, family and co-workers struggling with substance use, so they feel supported in seeking treatment and recovery."
The release states that the Vancouver Canucks campaign to minimize stigma will emphasize that “addiction can affect people from all walks of life”.
The release also quotes Dr. Bonnie Henry, who on January 24 was named incoming provincial health officer of B.C.
"There are multiple studies showing how stigma associated with drug use drives people to use alone or in settings where people may be unwilling to call 911 for emergency assistance," Henry said. "In order to encourage people to reach out for help - stigma, guilt and shame must be removed from the equation."
The campaign can be found online at stopoverdosebc.ca, where the provincial government has made other resources available related to overdose response, drug use, treatment, and addiction.
Last December, the province launched an online course in overdose response. It takes less than one hour and, upon completion, participants receive a certificate that they can then take to a pharmacy for a free supply of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids.